Central Indiana hospitals cope with influx of COVID-19 cases

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Central Indiana hospitals are on high alert as a surge in COVID-19 cases has brought an influx of patients. The surge in cases is also making it tough for people to get tested.

On Thursday, the Indiana State Department of Health said 7,420 more Hoosiers have tested positive. Also, 59 more Hoosiers have died as a result of the virus, bringing the state’s death toll to 4,830.

Tents were placed outside IU Methodist Hospital in April to be used as an overflow for the emergency department during the first wave of the virus. The hospital wanted to have additional space ready for a surge in patients, but so far the tents have not been used. As positive cases of the virus continue to surge, hospital officials have kept the tents in place.  

Franciscan Health on the south side of town has set up a semi-permanent COVID-19 testing location on their campus. The metal buildings are similar to carports or storage buildings. The hospital had these buildings installed in late spring in anticipation of a surge in patients. 

“While I believe the treatments we are using are working, there are still plenty of patients getting sick, still plenty of patients getting critically ill,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring of Franciscan Healt.  

The drive-thru clinic on Franciscan’s campus isolates potentially infected patients from the emergency room and other parts of the hospital. 

Nurses and other medical staff are stretched thin at Franciscan and other hospitals around the state. 

“We don’t have a lot of reserve forces to bring in, so there just aren’t excess health care workers, other who can step in when you have folks that are sidelined like that,” said Doehring. 

Hospital staff say several medical units are at capacity or over capacity, and have been for the past several weeks. 

The number of patients on ventilators had dropped, however in the past two weeks, that number is on the increase. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the number of COVID-19 patients using a ventilator and in intensive care has doubled in the last 30 days.  

“It is still a very hard and painful time, forcing people to make difficult decisions and unfortunately, all too often, people are making decisions that put them at risk and occasionally suffer fatal consequences,” said Doehring. 

Adding to the already overcrowded hospitals, flu season is upon us and the end of the year brings a flood of patients in for surgeries after they have met the deductibles on their health insurance.  

Staffing continues to be a problem at all area hospitals. This pandemic has brought on an increase in retirements, and hospitals are moving medical staff from other units to help with COVID-19 patients. If you are looking for a sign of when life is starting to get back to normal, it will be when the tents and outbuildings are removed from hospital parking lots. 


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